13 August 2017

Coursera - Super or a scam? // My Experience + Free List of 25+ MOOCs

Hey everyone!

Some of you may already be aware of sites such as Coursera and edX, which offer short, free, online courses from many universities across the world, known as MOOCs. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course and the concept is almost too good to be true: anyone and everyone (13+) can just go onto the site, sign up, and take the course!

I found out about MOOCs from UnJaded Jade in the following video. I thought it couldn't be possible to take a course without paying anything, so I gave it a try.

When I first searched for MOOCs into google, I was directed to this site where I could search for a course I was interested in.  I did not have a clue what kind of course I wanted, but it was not hard to find a course that grabbed my attention.

My course was an introduction to HTML5 from University of Michigan, as I am interested in developing my web skills as a blogger.


The first surprise was that the term 'free' is used quite loosely.  I discovered that to take any of the quizzes or graded assessments I would have to pay £37 a month after a 7 day free trial as the course was part of a specialisation, which means it was part of a 5 course series. Introduction to HTML5 is supposed to be taken in three weeks, which posed a little bit of a problem. You always have the option to audit the course, which would mean you would have access to all the material bar assessments and the certificate; however, I didn't want to go through the effort of learning to make a website without receiving a certificate in the end of it, so I challenged myself to take the course in seven days.

I did it in two. 

In my first few day of taking the course, I had completed week 1 and 2, which equated to around 2 hours plus quizzes and reading. But after having completed two thirds of the course, I decided to look at some reviews of coursera to make sure the site was safe after speaking with my mum. I found out that although partaking in a free trial, others had had money taken out of their account for the following weeks even though they had every intention of cancelling before the end of the free trial.

Furthermore, I questioned whether the five star reviews praising coursera were really genuine as they had script-like language, all sounding quite similar.

But of course there is no way to be sure if those reviewing with one-star reviews simply didn't read the guidelines properly and if the 5 star reviews are just from particularly enthusiastic students. My advice, if you want to do it for free, is to sign up for your free trial, enter your details and then immediately remove your details and unsubscribe from the course. You will still be able to complete your free trial with all assessment materials still available.

Course Quality

The course itself was very professional and was run by a professor with a PhD in computer science..  I had access to several instructional videos which very clearly explained each step to creating a website, as well as highlighting ethical issues such as accessibility and explaining what the computer does with the information you give it. The instructor immediately told you what would and would not be included in the course so when we ended up with a basic website no one was disappointed! I learned the difference between CSS, Javascript and HTML, syntax and semantics. This is what I ended up with in the final project:


The assessments on the whole were quite good. We were given small quizzes at the end of each quiz and slightly larger ones at the end of each week. All assessments were auto-graded, which was a problem for the final assessment as you could never get the html code exactly as the professor originally wrote it; however, she did a good job of making sure you could still pass the exam and test the skills required to code the website with added questions. I was impressed with the quizzes as it was made sure that the students learning was constantly tested. Your final grade was an average of scores from all quizzes, and not just the final one.


The second surprise came when it was time to receive the certificate. You had to give them a picture of your National ID?! I was very confused as why they would need that kind of sensitive information just to give the certificate after spending two and a half hours watching videos and roughly another hour experimenting with code and reading the material.  The reason Coursera needs the information is so that they can verify your identity. So far, I haven't had any problems regarding people stealing my identity!

Would I recommend coursera?

Yes, I would.  Despite slight fears over money and national identity theft, I found coursera to be a very rewarding experience and would suggest anybody use it.

Would you use coursera? Comment below!

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// Jeani

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